Chapter 5

Both Clara and the Doctor cautiously poked their heads around the edge of the stone altar. Their attackers seemed to have once again withdrawn to a darkened corner of the temple.

"Looks like they're taking a pause." The Doctor whispered. " Did I ever tell you that I aced my O levels in off-world diplomacy and alien negotiation?"

"OK. You're just making things up again, aren't you?"

"Actually, Clara, I prefer to think of it as expressing my creative exaggeration. What's wrong with that?" The Doctor responded with a playful smile, waving his hands for emphasis. "I was merely using a bit of poetic license. Well, I suppose it's not really poetic. Or a license. Forget I said anything about poetry. Or licenses."

"No worries there, Doctor." Clara smirked.

"They seem to be having some sort of confab going on over there." He nodded towards the three warriors with their backs turned, huddling in conference in the dim shadows of the far wall."Perhaps I got through to them, after all."

"Or maybe, you made them laugh so hard they had to take a unscheduled loo break. What is this place, anyway? It's a Hammer horror sort of way." Clara asked, finally able to take in the details of the alcove with its ornate carvings and brightly painted pictures. "It's looks like some kind of sacrificial thing. Didn't people do that back then? Some priest telling everyone that their god will be happy if they commit a gruesome murder."

"It would seem that way, wouldn't it? Yet for some civilizations it was the equivalent of being awarded a BAFTA or an OBE. And the paparazzi weren't nearly so aggressive back then. Though, fair dues. It did take them ages to carve an image on the tabloid wall." He spread his fingers as if framing a picture with them. "Exclusive! First carving of Zoltec in his bespoke death Mask!"

"None of the victims carved on that wall behind us look very happy to me." Clara said skeptically.

"You know, I've actually met sacrifices who were quite thrilled to have their hearts ripped out and put on display." The Doctor said caustically, as he stood and stretched.. "Humans! It's like I told Andy Warhol that time at his birthday party. 'Andy,' I said, 'some people will do anything for their fifteen minutes of fame'. Not that your lot will ever change. Why do you think all those reality series have become so popular? Trust me. I know what I'm talking about Clara. I'll never forget that time I was a contestant on Big Brother and...wait a minute. Those carvings. What are they supposed to be, I wonder?"

Only having first real look at the carvings at that moment, the Doctor now bent down to examine the pictures on the bottom half of the wall more closely. Pulling a large magnifying glass from his pocket, the Doctor had his face bare centimeters from the wall, minutely studying the painted images of the victims.

"Let's see, Doctor. Supposing for one minute that I were to believe every word you say, I'd think they were paparazzi carvings."Clara replied sarcastically, arching an eyebrow at his backsides.

"Hold on. That's not right." The Doctor frowned, suddenly wary. "That's very not right. That's so not right it goes beyond even left."

Clara threw a puzzled glance at the Doctor. "Putting aside the fact that your last sentence made no sense whatsoever, I'll bite. What's wrong?"

"Those victims." The Doctor spoke in a hushed voice, almost dripping with dread, "That aura surrounding them. It looks like, impossible! It can't be."

"It's like playing a perpetual game of Twenty Questions, traveling with you. What are you talking about?"

"Clara, I do hope that for once I am wrong—and I don't say that often, but it almost looks like they're being attacked by—"

"THE ONCOMING STORM!" Boomed a male voice from across the temple.

"We give honor and praise to The Oncoming Storm, The World Saver, The Sainted Physician, The Lonely God. Blessed be the name of The Doctor!" Chanted the voices of the three warriors in chorus, as they came across the room. Their sing-song words echoing off the carved, arched ceiling overhead. With heads bowed, the three men walked with arms outstretched in obeisance towards the Doctor.

"So, you're a god, now? Interesting career choice, Doctor. Bet it has a brilliant pension plan." Clara said, clearly amused by this sudden and unexpected turn of events.

"Erm—?" Was all the Doctor could reply, for once at a loss for words.

Deep in the underground tunnels, Mari had lost all sense of direction. She had no idea where she was, or even if there was a way out. In the back of her mind she knew that all this wandering was completely aimless. Especially if she didn't know where she was going. Still, there was a stubborn streak in Mari that refused to give in easily. She was doing her best to use her common sense. Making careful note as she went along of any unusual rock formations or markings. For instance, she'd noticed a streak of white quartz in the side of a tunnel wall. And there had been a roughly chiseled piece of rock which resembled a man with a pointy nose.

However, it was when Mari realized that she'd passed the same pointed nose rock three times in the past two hours, that she began to give in to fear and doubt again. There were so many tunnels down there, all bisecting each other. It seemed to be endless! Some sloped downward, while others remained level. Still others would seem to be traveling upward, only to end in a solid wall of rock. There was no evidence of human activity here. Yet she was certain these tunnels had not been formed by the forces of nature. Someone had built them. But what for?

There was something else beginning to make her skin grow clammy. She tried to come to grips with her mounting anxiety. Bitterly, Mari fought against it. But it kept rising up, heedless of her will. The light in her lamp was beginning to fade. It had dimmed considerably in the past fifteen minutes, and was continuing to do so. She'd seen no signs of any other light source. No lights were strung from the walls or ceiling, as she supposed a modern mine might have. Not one scrap of either recent or archeological evidence of fire pits or flaming torches was present here.

Then her worst nightmare happened. Her headlamp flickered a few times and then went dark. Mari let out a gasp of alarm. She felt her heart palpitating as the tunnel enclosed her in its panoptic blackness.

Her guts felt as if they had turned into a block of ice. Hugging herself, Mari took a deep breath and sat down. She needed to think. Obviously, she couldn't go on. There were a few pits down here. Who knew how deep they were? She'd been able to carefully skirt around them, thus far. But without light, there was little hope that she could continue to do so.

Mari couldn't help it, she tried to stop but couldn't. Sitting on the floor, she buried her head in her knees and began to cry.

Just then, she heard a noise. It sounded almost mechanical. Like a...what? No, wait. It wasn't there now. Shaking her head, Mari tried to tell herself she was imagining things. She wondered idly if there were any poisonous gas leaks down here. Could she be having hallucinations? Or was she simply going mad, alone and in the dark? Wiping her sleeve across her eyes, Mari paused her thoughts. Straining to listen for something, anything.

With renewed hope, Mari's heart suddenly bounded with joy. Because there it was again. That gentle humming sound. Perhaps it was some sort of underground conveyance, she pondered. Like a battery operated truck. She stood up, thrilled to her core. She was going to get out of this! Whomever her rescuer was, he or she was going to get the biggest hug of their life.

The mechanical sound was close now, Mari felt. It continued a few more seconds then stopped abruptly. Again the tunnel was cloaked in silence.

"H—hello?" Mari stammered. "Is somebody there?"

There was no answer. There was only the dark and damp and cold, unforgiving stone, echoing back her own words to her.

"Please. Is someone there? Do you speak English? Erm—habla Anglo? Please, I'm lost. My lamp went out. I need help."

The humming noise picked up again. It drew nearer. That's when she noticed the light, glowing softly in the dark. One single, blue, glowing dot in the empty blindness.

"What's the matter with you? Why won't you say something?" Mari pleaded, suddenly confused by this person's silence.

Swiveling first one way, then the next, the light once again swung to face her. Then, there was a voice. A harsh, unforgiving, grating voice. It echoed off the rock like a savage scream:


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